In The Midst of Tragedy

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 reads “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

You likely already know of the recent terrorist attack on the city of Paris spreading to several locations throughout the city and resulting in the death of over 140 people. This led to many around the world showing support for France in this very dark hour.

What do you say when things like this happen? What do you tell a family who witnesses terrorism or loses a loved one? How do you answer the questions and how do you understand them yourself?

I wish I had the answers to these questions, but I don’t. Oh, I may have some, but I certainly don’t have them all. When tragedy happens, especially on a large scale, what do we do?

The Psalmist, King David, seems to struggle with these questions in Psalm 64:1-6,10.

We are in a war and while I don’t understand everything, the unfortunate part of war is casualties of the innocent. While we don’t understand, we can know and trust the God will ultimately win. Let’s look at five things we can do for those affected by terrorism and other acts of violence and wrongdoing.

1.     Realize we live in a broken world.

We need to remember and admit that this world we live in is very broken. In the Genesis creation story, God created humanity and everything while saying it was good. But if you go to Genesis 6:1-6, something has gone very wrong–humanity has turned its back on God and chosen sin. Even in a broken world, these tragedies pull at the very heart of God.

2.     Surround the victims.

Remember Jobs friends? Let’s read what they did when Job lost everything he had. Read Job 2:11-13. Did you notice what they did in the beginning? They grieved with Job. Friends get in trouble trying to rationalize, explain, or discount the pain. We need to surround the victim by mourning with them in their loss.

3.     Listen to their story.

Listen to the story of those who are hurting. But don’t stop at listening, listen empathetically. Experience their pain with them as you allow them to process what is going on.

4.     Assure them of hope.

WHEN APPROPRIATE, offer assurance of hope that is ultimately found in the resurrection. Read John 10:10. While there is a time to provide hope in Christ, it needs to be timed appropriately. Remember, sometimes we have to endure the worst/darkness of the storm before you see the light/rainbow.

5.     Pray for them.

Another thing we can do for those who hurt is pray on their behalf. Pray for comfort, wisdom, openness, justice, peace, and forgiveness.

While we cannot fix the situation and provide all the answers, we can hide ourselves in God and know that in the end God wins and that we can be with Him made anew. While God never intended for these tragedies to be part of creation, He still says “I love you, I’ll be there for you, and I’ll win in the end.”

So remember, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”